Campus round-up

September 13, 2012

Trinity Laban Conservatoire

Pride and joy

Two original musical pieces written by an academic took centre stage at the Paralympics opening ceremony. Errollyn Wallen, who teaches composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, said she took "a huge amount of pride" in her involvement in the £8 million spectacle, which attracted more than 11 million viewers when it aired on UK television. Her Isaac Newton-inspired work, Principia, featured 430 people from six London choirs, including the London Gay Men's Chorus and Lewisham Choral Society, while Spirit in Motion was performed by visually impaired soprano Denise Leigh and the London Symphony Orchestra. The show also featured a performance by Trinity Laban dance graduate David Toole, a double amputee.

Imperial College London

Though the earth tremble

A UK researcher is working on technology that is set to travel on Nasa's next unmanned mission to Mars. Tom Pike, from Imperial College London's department of electrical and electronic engineering, will develop miniaturised sensors to detect "marsquakes" - seismic activity on the Red Planet. The sensors will travel on Nasa's InSight mission, due to land in 2016, which aims to understand the formation and evolution of rocky planets by investigating Mars' internal structure. Dr Pike was also involved in developing a system for holding samples of Martian soil as part of the Phoenix mission in 2008, and helped Nasa to detect ice just below the planet's surface.

University of East Anglia

Fresh fields and pastures new

Introducing highland cows to university land may not sound like an effective way to cultivate an effective learning environment. But the University of East Anglia has introduced four of the animals in a bid to improve the biodiversity of its land and to help manage the diverse flora and fauna on the edge of its Norwich campus. Oliver Deeming, UEA's grounds maintenance manager, said he believes the bovine gardeners will not only help the land, but also cut costs. The cows - Delia, Cecily, Chocolate and Cornflower - will remain at UEA until the end of the autumn. If the first trial is successful, cattle will return to the university next year, possibly in greater numbers.

University of Cambridge

It's not all physics, you know

A physics degree can lead to a wider range of careers than you might think, secondary students visiting one university will be told next week. Physics at Work, held at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, is a free event aimed at stimulating interest in physics among 14- to 16-year-olds. Pupils visiting the exhibition, open to all schools, will be able to listen to industry representatives and researchers from the university, as well as watch practical demonstrations and get involved in hands-on activities. The event aims to showcase the variety of ways in which physics is used in the everyday world.

University of Warwick

Two heads are better than one

A UK and an Asian institution have linked up to launch a "joint global programme for neuroscience research". The University of Warwick and Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have jointly funded two appointments to the new Warwick-NTU Neuroscience Research@Singapore programme. Warwick hopes the collaboration will allow it to tap into the "research powerhouse" of Singapore's world-renowned Biopolis biomedicine hub and the critical mass that is forming around neuroscience research in the country. A joint PhD in neuroscience is being developed by the two institutions, and a small research team will be formed with a postdoctoral research fellow being assigned to each of the two new academics.

University of Glamorgan

Reach for the stars

PhD "research stars" could receive a share of £900,000 being awarded by one university to celebrate its 100th year. The University of Glamorgan is looking for 20 full-time home or EU students to receive Centenary Doctoral Scholarships, starting this year. Each student will receive £15,000 per year over a three-year period, for studies in a range of subjects across the university's four faculties. Proposed titles for study include Homicide Investigation and Forensic Interventions, Shaping the Future of the Intelligent Home and Portable Brain computer Interface for Neurocognitive Rehabilitation.

University of Nottingham

Welcome to the big time

Two university students have been signed by a professional rugby club. Third-year physiotherapy student David Priest and second-year Classics student Alex Boggis were spotted by Nottingham Rugby Football Club while representing the University of Nottingham in its annual varsity game against Nottingham Trent University. Both aim to continue their studies despite signing for the Championship club. Mr Priest said: "I love playing rugby, so if I can take it further that will be brilliant. [The university is] pretty understanding, allowing me the time to train and to study to get good grades as well."

Newcastle University/UCL

Lost in music

Working as a piano tuner can change the structure of your brain, research published in the Journal of Neuroscience has suggested. Tim Griffiths, professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University, led the study at University College London's Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging which found that structural differences in piano tuners' brains correlate with their number of years' experience in the profession. The study found that changes occurred not in the auditory part of the brain but in the hippocampus, an area traditionally associated with memory and navigation. Professor Griffiths said its findings were consistent with piano tuners performing a form of navigation in "pitch space".

University of Hertfordshire

Back where it all began

One of the UK's post-1992 universities has paid tribute to its polytechnic past by inviting back students who studied at its predecessor institutions to formally recognise their role in the creation of the university. The University of Hertfordshire began life as a technical college 60 years ago, before becoming a polytechnic in 1969. A number of local specialist colleges have also become part of the institution. As part of the university's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, an awards ceremony and reunion was held on 8 September, where 515 former graduates were awarded the title "associate of the University of Hertfordshire".

University of Leeds

A hard rain will fall

A study has provided the first hard evidence that forests increase rainfall. A team from the University of Leeds and the Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found that for the majority of tropical areas, air passing over extensive forests produces at least twice as much rain as air passing over areas of scant vegetation. In some cases the forests increased rainfall thousands of miles away. The study, published in Nature, warns that deforestation could reduce rainfall by a fifth in the Amazon basin by 2050.

Royal Holloway, University of London

Play time for Churchill

A £3 million university theatre is to be named after the playwright Caryl Churchill. The 175-seat theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, has been designed by architect Tim Foster and will open in early 2013. Dan Rebellato, head of theatre and drama, said it was a "great honour" to be able to name the theatre after the British dramatist and "just recognition of her restless theatrical creativity".

University of Birmingham

Fish restock

Researchers have studied how some forms of river life bounced back after being nearly wiped out during a flood in Alaska. In an article published in the journal Nature Climate Change, University of Birmingham researchers reveal that salmon, meiofauna and most macroinvertebrates all recolonised within two years of the flood at Wolf Point Creek in 2005. The study looked at the resistance of riverine communities to major flood events. Sandy Milner, professor of river ecosystems, said the findings "illustrate the rapidity with which pink salmon populations are able to recover, and demonstrate their resilience to high-magnitude flow disturbances".

Hoop dreams

A university facility that has been at the heart of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer was the scene of an exhibition match by top wheelchair basketball players from Great Britain and the US. The University of East London's SportsDock, the training venue for US and GB Paralympic athletes and Team USA's main base during the Olympics, was the location for a tense and tightly fought game in which the US were narrow victors, 52-48. Garry Peel, the British women's wheelchair basketball head coach, said playing a warm-up match on the doorstep of the Olympic Park had been "very beneficial" for the team.

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